Playing with Dolls

In Salt Lake City, a first-grader suddenly began compulsively throwing away all of her dolls, even the ones she loved. Her parents were horrified. Finally, they discovered the reason: The little girl's teacher had said the world is so crowded and miserable that the only solution is to stop having children. This sensitive child decided the responsible thing to do was not even to pretend to raise babies. Her cherished dolls stashed in a waste basket are a tragic symbol of the way even children are being dragged into politically correct causes today—a trend literally robbing children of their childhood. It used to be that parents and teachers "tried to keep childhood a carefree golden age," writes Marie Winn in her landmark book Children Without Childhood. The goal was to "shelter children from life's vicissitudes" as long as possible, and give them time to grow up before having to face adult problems and pressures. But the contemporary approach is exactly the opposite: It operates on the belief that children must be exposed early to social problems in order to survive in this complex world. School curricula and library books for children all the way down to toddlers cover the gamut of issues: AIDS, death, divorce, pollution, sexual abuse, global warming. As Michael and Diane Medved write in their new book Saving Children, "Kids arrive for kindergarten fed on Sesame Street warnings about 'uncomfortable touches' and armed with a fingerprinted 'stolen child' identification card." The message kids absorb from this is that the world is a dangerous place and they'd better know how to protect themselves. But the unspoken subtext, of course, is that no one is willing, or able, to protect them. The upshot is that such programs often give children an even greater sense of fear and insecurity. In other words, most of these programs actually backfire. Instead of preparing kids to meet the problems of adulthood with some confidence, they burden kids with a paralyzing fear and despair. For example, studies show that school programs warning children about sexual abuse only made the children paranoid. By contrast, gentle instruction from sensitive parents about being cautious may spare children from that paranoia. The best way to prepare kids for adulthood is just the opposite: It's by giving them back their childhood. Let them draw pictures, read stories, and play make-believe—confronting evil mostly in a symbolic form of dragons and trolls and wicked witches that safely disappear with the words "the end." Years spent in positive play help build the strength of character children will need to confront the intractable problems of adulthood without collapsing into despair. And the best antidote to despair is an abiding Christian faith, which teaches kids that no matter how dark things look, ultimately good will prevail and evil will be defeated. "In this world you will have tribulations," Jesus said. "But be of good cheer: I have overcome the world." So let's not let our little girls—or little boys—trash their toys and grow up too fast. And maybe we too can learn something by letting our kids be kids. Childhood innocence is a good thing after all. For Jesus taught that if they want to enter the Kingdom of heaven, even adults must become like little children.


Chuck Colson


  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary